Community Cat Program Position Change in Durham County

Posted in News

Are you ready to save more lives? We are and here is how!

For years, Durham County ordinances have restricted how APS of Durham is able to interact with community cats, also referred to as feral cats. Because these cats are very skittish of people, extremely independent and live outdoors on their own, they are exceptionally difficult – if not impossible – to handle in a shelter. They also cannot be placed into new homes from our shelter and trapping them requires a permit that forces the ‘trapper’ to bring the cats to the local shelter, AKA Animal Protection Society of Durham. Therein lies a big problem for the cats and our ability to protect them.

The way in which our current county ordinance is written as it pertains to ‘feral’ cats makes it illegal to release them back into the community, considering this technically abandonment. This situation is heartbreaking and not a gold standard for animal welfare organizations. We can do better by passing and implementing a ‘trap, neuter, vaccinate and return’ (TNVR) program for community cats, to ensure they are healthy and able to thrive in the communities from which they come.

For years now, APS of Durham along with other animal welfare groups and members of the community have advocated for updating this ordinance in our county to become a gold standard policy. We are thrilled to report that those changes are happening.

Our County Commissioners are supportive of such an ordinance update that will make it possible for TNVR programs in Durham County. After months of research and collaboration among various groups, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has agreed upon a draft ordinance that will make TNVR legal in Durham.

Next steps: The ordinance will be sent to the County Commissioners for review, a public reading, and a public hearing. We hope to have this process completed within the coming months. We are fortunate to have strong, progressive leadership in Durham, willing to improve outdated practices. We are confident and hopeful this will result in great changes for the animals in our community very soon. We look forward to the County Commissioners upcoming vote for changing this ordinance so that Durham embraces the gold standard care for our community pets and animals.

The adoption of an updated ordinance that allows for a TVNR program is important for many reasons. TVNR will control the population of feral cats, help to mitigate nuisances, and will prevent unnecessary euthanasia of otherwise healthy cats. APS of Durham supports TVNR programs and is really excited to become an active leader in implementing this new policy once it is passed.

This is extremely exciting news. With the passage of this updated ordinance, we will be able to save more lives of Durham’s community cats.


What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?

TNR is a nonlethal strategy for reducing the number of community cats and improving the quality of life for cats, wildlife and people. At its most basic, TNR involves:

  • Humanely trapping community cats,
  • Spaying or neutering them,
  • Vaccinating them against rabies,
  • Surgically removing the tip of one ear (a “tipped” ear is the universally-recognized sign of a cat who has been spayed or neutered),
  • Returning the cats to their home.

How does TNR solve common complaints associated with feral cats?

  • When feral cats are trapped, neutered and returned to their territory, they no longer reproduce.
  • The cessation of sexual activity eliminates the noise associated with mating behavior and dramatically reduces fighting and the noise it causes.
  • Neutered feral cats also roam much less and become less visible and less prone to injury from cars.
  • Foul odors are greatly reduced as well because neutered male cats no longer produce testosterone which, when they are unaltered, mixes with their urine and causes the strong, pungent smell of their spraying.
  • When the colony is then monitored by a caretaker who removes and/or TNRs any newly arrived cats, the population stabilizes and gradually declines over time.

For more information on TNR from the Humane Society here.